Psilocybin mushrooms, known as magic mushrooms or “shrooms,” are mushrooms that contain a naturally occurring psychoactive and hallucinogenic compound called psilocybin.
Magic mushrooms can cause altered or unusual perceptions of their reality, causing users to see, hear, and feel sensations that seem real but are not. Magic mushrooms have long been associated with spiritual experiences and self-discovery; however, a “bad trip” can cause the user to experience anxiety, paranoia, frightening hallucinations, and psychosis.
When psilocybin enters the body, it becomes psilocin. Psilocin binds with serotonin receptors in the brain, specifically the 5-HT2C receptor regulating neurotransmitter chemicals that control feelings of appetite, cognition, anxiety, imagination, mood, and perception.
Psilocybin, like marijuana, is classified as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs have a high potential for misuse and have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. In 2018, however, researchers at Johns Hopkins University suggested reclassification of magic mushrooms to a Schedule IV drug for medical use. The researchers suggested that they could help treat depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
Magic mushrooms are currently legal in Brazil, Bulgaria, Jamaica, the Netherlands, and Samoa. Many other countries have decriminalized the possession and cultivation of mushrooms, and some countries considered mushrooms only in dried form to be illegal.
In the United States, however, magic mushrooms are still illegal in all 50 states. Denver, Colorado and Oakland, California have both signed legislation to decriminalize magic mushrooms opening the door for researchers to explore potential medical benefits. Oakland City Council Member Noel Gallo stated that magic mushrooms have long been used “for providing healing, knowledge, creativity, and spiritual connection.”
While the recreational use of magic mushrooms is still illegal across the United States, activists in some states are pushing for more widespread decriminalization. On November 3rd, 2020, Oregon became the first state to legalize psychedelic mushrooms. As more research continues on the medical and therapeutic benefits of magic mushrooms, the United States could see a gradual change in their legality.